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US Readies Migrant Camp In Gitmo

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US Readies Migrant Camp In Gitmo

Mensaje por Wajiro el Jue Oct 25, 2007 6:54 am

US readies migrant camp on Gitmo for Caribbean influx
Web posted at: 10/25/2007 3:1:33
Source ::: REUTERS
MIAMI • As US President George W Bush urges Cubans to push for peaceful democratic change, the US military is preparing a site on its Guantanamo base in Cuba for a tent camp to house up to 10,000 Caribbean migrants by next summer.

Although there is nothing to indicate a mass migration is looming just over a year after Cuban leader Fidel Castro was sidelined from power by an illness, there are tentative plans for a second tent camp that could hold 35,000 more.

The construction is part of "Operation Vigilant Sentry," the government's multi-agency plan to thwart a mass influx of boat people fleeing political upheaval or natural disaster in the Caribbean. Planning took on added urgency last year when Castro fell ill and ceded power to his brother, Raul Castro.

The number of Cubans heading to Mexico and trekking across the US land border has been climbing since the handover. But the number intercepted in the Florida Straits has held steady. The Coast Guard intercepted 2,868 in the year ended September 30, only slightly above totals for the previous two years.

"Hopefully we won't need the plan. It doesn't appear that it's going to be activated any time soon," said Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz in Miami.

The United States was caught by surprise in the mid-1990s when 60,000 Cubans and Haitians fled poverty and chaos at home and were halted at sea en route for Florida. They were held for processing by immigration authorities at the Guantanamo naval base, where the migrant population peaked at 45,000 in 1994.

Then, teeming tent camps were strewn on an abandoned runway, a golf course and other parts of the "Windward," or eastern, side of the base, which is divided in two by Guantanamo Bay and traversed by ferries.

"We don't want any migrants on the Windward side because of security concerns with the detainees," an army official said.

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